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The Japanese aviation industry is making serious efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions as the government has declared a goal of achieving carbon neutrality in the country by 2050.

The industry hopes to utilize sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, made from plant-based ingredients to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from burning jet fuel. Airplanes emit more carbon dioxide than other modes of transport.

“We cannot survive unless we become an eco-friendly mode of transport,” Chikako Miyata, a senior official at ANA Holdings Inc., said.

Airlines are therefore turning to cleaner energy sources, such as fuel made from euglena, a single-cell organism, and waste plant-based cooking oil. The sources of these fuels use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, effectively canceling out carbon emissions from burning them.

Japan Airlines plans to bring down emissions from its flight operations to net zero by 2050. In order to meet the target, it plans to cut 45% of its net emissions through the use of SAF.

The airline aims to replace 10% of its jet fuel with SAF by 2030 and 100% by 2040.

ANA, the parent of All Nippon Airways, also aims to expand the use of SAF.

Europe is taking the lead in the area of SAF. Finnish energy company Neste and others have begun producing SAF for commercial use. SAF has already been used for over 350,000 flights worldwide.

On the other hand, Japanese airlines only started tests using SAF in 2018, with a limited number of flights made with the fuel.

The transport ministry estimates that about 2.5 million to 5.6 million kiloliters of SAF will be needed by 2030.

Companies hope to make up for the country’s delayed adoption of SAF. Biotech firm Euglena Co. put a euglena-based SAF into practical use in June this year. It plans to produce 250,000 kiloliters of the biofuel a year from 2025.

Meanwhile, engineering company JGC Holdings Corp. and others plan to supply 30,000 kiloliters of SAF made from waste cooking oil in 2025.

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